BP Portrait Award 2011 and BP Travel Award 2010 at the  National Portrait Gallery

“Going from strength to strength”

Jane Hallcome – June 2011

Distracted by Wim Heldens

The BP Portrait Award 2011 was overwhelmed with 2,372 entries, an increase of 196 on last year. BP Portrait Award 2011 has seen 1,644 entries from United Kingdom and 728 entries from other countries. The selection for the  National Portrait Gallery, London, exhibition was of 55 portraits only.

The BP Portrait Award 2011 winner is ‘Distracted’ by the Dutch artist Wim Heldens who portrayed a student. He wins £25,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £4,000.

The second prize of £8,000 went to Louis Smith for ‘Holly’ and the third prize of £6,000 to Ian Cumberland for ‘Just to Feel Normal’. Sertan Saltan for ‘Mrs Cerna’ won £5,000 for the BP Young Artist Award.

Great excitement created ‘Epic Mirtiotissa’ by Paul Beel, the BP Travel Award 2010 winner, for the usage of nudity. Beel records his journey to Corfu painting a large polyptych of a nudist beach, portraying a wide range of locals and tourists he encountered during his stay on the island.

The BP Travel Award 2011 went to Jo Fraser, who won £5,000 for her proposal to travel to the Cuzco region of Peru to observe the indigenous production of textiles.


Holly by Louis Smith

Wim Heldens (b. 1954) is a self-taught, professional artist from Amsterdam. He participated to numerous groups and solo exhibitions in Europe and the US. ‘Distracted’ is a portray of Jeroen, 25, philosophy student to whom the artist has been a father-figure since he was four. Jeroen sat for him over 20 times, starting when he was seven years old. Heldens says: “I have been fascinated with painting Jeroen in all stages of life through growing up.”

The second winner, Louis Smith (b. 1969), lives in Manchester. He has exhibited in Britain and Italy. His eight-foot portrait, ‘Holly’, shows a naked model called Holly hand-cuffed to a rock in a wild cave-like landscape, a revisited female version of the allegory of Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus and give it to mortals. As punishment he was bound to a rock while an eagle ate his liver daily only for it to grow back to be eaten the next day. Holly looks into the eagle’s face with calm resilience, accepting her fate. “It’s a message of composure in the face of adversity, something we can all draw strength from in our struggle to make a daily living” says Smith, who was helped by Carmel Said.

Just to Feel Normal by Ian Cumberland

Ian Cumberland (b. 1983) lives and works in County Down, Northern Ireland. He has had a solo exhibition at the Albermarle Gallery in London and has won several awards. His third prize winner portrait is a mysterious half-smiling study: “This is a painting of a friend whose story is like many others from my generation that have fallen victim to themselves and their preferred habits”, says Cumberland “The title ‘Just to feel Normal’ refers to his answer when asked why he continues along his chosen path.”

Born in 1982 in Eskisehir, Turkey, Sertan Saltan won the fifth edition of BP Young Artist Award. He moved to the US in 2006 to continue his studies and now lives and works in Avon, Connecticut.

His sitter Mrs Cerna is caught warningly glancing at the artist, in her hair rollers and latex gloves sharpening a large knife. “The contrast of knife, gloves and rollers brought both humour and horror to mind”, says Sertan.

The BP Portrait Award 2011 is at its 32nd edition and it has been sponsored by BP for 22 years.

The BP Portrait Award 2011 was judged anonymously from original paintings by 2011 year panel: Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair); Paul Emsley, Artist, BP Portrait Award First Prize Winner 2007; Jonathan Jones, Art Critic, The Guardian; Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, London; Rosie Broadley, Associate Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London and, Des Violaris, Director,UK Arts and Culture, BP.

The “BP Travel Award” was judged by: Liz Rideal, Art Resource Developer, National Portrait Gallery, Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, and Rosie Broadley, Associate Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery.

After the London run, the exhibition will tour Wolverhampton Art Gallery (from 24th September until 1st November 2011) and Aberdeen Art Gallery (from 12th November 2011 until 21st January 2012).

At The National Portrait Gallery, London, from 16th June until 18th September 2011.